Couples seeking fertilisation treatment will be warned that any children born as a result of the therapy may have a higher risk of birth defects, it emerged last night.

The updated guidance from the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) will refer to findings that test-tube babies could be up to 30 per cent more likely to suffer from health problems and genetic flaws. The Government's watchdog on fertility issues has amended its official guidance to enable parents to have information about recent studies raising concerns about IVF.

Scientists from the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention found IVF babies suffered higher rates of conditions such as heart valve defects, cleft lip and palate, and digestive system abnormalities. Patients will be able to access the HFEA's advice on potential risks on its website from next month. The HFEA will also make clear that the majority of babies born by IVF are healthy and that more research is needed into birth defect issues. More than 12,000 babies were born in 2006 as a result of IVF, according to HFEA figures.

A spokesman said: "As with any medical procedure, it is important patients understand the risks."

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